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Business Revenue

Volume 615: debated on Thursday 20 October 2016

3. What progress his Department has made in engaging with businesses on the potential effect on their revenues of the UK leaving the EU. (906689)

14. What progress his Department has made on engaging with the tourism industry on the potential effect on its revenues of the UK leaving the EU. (906702)

Since the referendum, the Government have met companies from every sector of the British economy, including tourism, to discuss the risks and opportunities. I believe that as we build an ever more outward-facing, agile economy, with firms trading more widely across the world, there is enormous potential for the UK to be an even better place to do business. We are meeting representatives of business regularly, and the detailed analysis shared with us by many of them is informing the preparations for the negotiations.

On tourism specifically, foreign visitors contribute £22 billion to our economy, and the industry as a whole supports some 1.6 million jobs. A record 3.8 million people visited the UK in July. My right hon. Friend the Culture Secretary has met industry leaders to discuss our exit from the EU, and we debated this matter in Westminster Hall last week. As the Prime Minister has said, we are confident our exit presents opportunities for growth in tourism, and we will work closely with the industry to realise this.

Businesses in Amber Valley say that what would help them most in deciding what investment to make in the coming years is some clarity about what our overall trading position with the EU will be. They are nervous that waiting two and a half years for that will not be helpful. When does the Secretary of State think they will be able to understand at least what the big picture will be?

At the strategic level, businesses should be able to understand that very clearly now. We have some very clear strategic aims: we will respect the views of the British people—I know my hon. Friend campaigned on our side—to bring back control over our laws and bring back control of immigration; we will aim to maintain our consideration of security exactly as it is now; and on the market front, we are seeking the most open possible market with the European Union.

I thank the Secretary of State for his comments about engaging with the tourism industry. As he said, we are achieving record visitor numbers and record spend. To sustain this growth, should we investigate marketing the UK even more aggressively overseas, taking advantage of the weak pound, with increased budgets for VisitBritain, for example?

I congratulate my hon. Friend on the excellent debate he held last week, and indeed on his excellent speech on this subject. He is right that the industry continues to thrive, with 3.8 million people visiting the UK. I am quite certain—I am sure he will look at Hansard later—that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Trade will take up his point about promoting Britain abroad as a place to visit.

Does the Secretary of State agree with the International Trade Secretary that we should leave the European customs union, or with the Business Secretary and the Chancellor that we should not do so?

The Secretary of State talks about a smooth transition, but the truth is that businesses are concerned we will have to fall back on WTO rules. Our European partners have so far refused to say that they will enter trade talks alongside our article 50 negotiations. What will the Government and the Secretary of State do to avoid the cliff edge in March 2019, when we leave the EU, of our falling out of the EU single market and back on WTO rules?

The hon. Lady says that our European partners have said that. Some of them have said it, but that was some time ago, and they are now starting to read what article 50 actually says. Article 50 implies that there will be parallel negotiations. That is what we will have because, as she quite rightly says, we need to conclude them within two years to avoid any cliff edge.

18. My constituency is home to the Cambridge science park, a centre of innovation and technology. Last week, I met David Newble, the chief executive of TTP Labtech, who is concerned about maintaining access to overseas talent, following the vote for Brexit. What steps is the Secretary of State taking to ensure that we continue to attract the international expertise that is helping to drive our tech sector in the UK? (906707)

My hon. and learned Friend might remember that I said in my conference speech that to take part in the global competitive economy we have to win the global battle for talent, too. My task is to bring back to the UK the right to decide who can come to Britain; the Government’s task will be to exercise that right in the national interest. Clearly, it will not be in the national interest to restrict the movement of talent—the free movement of brainpower, as it were—so she can be confident that we will not be limiting highly intelligent, highly capable people’s access to universities.

Will the Secretary of State tell us what assessment his or any other Department has made of the impact of leaving the EU on the economy, and when he will make that available to this House?

We currently have in place an assessment of 51 sectors of the economy. We are looking at those one by one, but the aim at the end is that this will inform the negotiating approach so that no one gets hurt. Given the hon. Gentleman’s context, I should mention that we are also doing that assessment in a way that will throw up whether something has an impact on the individual nations of the United Kingdom, as well as on the UK as a whole.

I obviously welcome that new information from the Secretary of State, but the Fraser of Allander Institute has already told us that this will cost up to 80,000 jobs in Scotland alone. The CBI, the British Chambers of Commerce and the Institute of Directors have warned about the impact of limiting freedom of movement. They have done their homework, Secretary of State. You did not do your homework during the Vote Leave campaign, when you had a blank piece of paper to campaign on. If the Secretary of State is going to Scotland, he will need to do better than that. When will that assessment be published?

I venture to suggest that if you did your homework, Mr Speaker, you would not have it marked by the hon. Gentleman.

I have not seen the Fraser of Allander report, so would be grateful if the hon. Gentleman directed me to it. One thing about these reports is that they all base themselves on single assumptions. We need to look at those assumptions to see whether they are realistic, and that is what we will do. There have been a large number of forecasts of the effect of Brexit. Some are very pessimistic about certain aspects of policy that we do not intend to allow to happen. I will look at that particular report carefully and talk to him about it after I have done so.

The US Chamber of Commerce, which represents companies with investments in the UK worth almost $600 billion, warned our ambassador in Washington last week that to retain and attract those investments in the years ahead we will require access to the single market. Will the Secretary of State tell the House whether he accepts the figure I have given and, if he does not, how much US business investment he thinks will be at risk if this Government do not secure access to the single market?

One reason—although only one—why we are seeking to maintain the most open and barrier-free access possible to the European market is to encourage foreign direct investment. We have had discussions with a number of countries, including the US; indeed I met a US congressional delegation that came here whose members were very enthusiastic about Brexit. There are many views about this.